Perhaps the best known physical symptom of alcoholism is the tremor known as delirium tremens, which sometimes affects only the hands but other times affects the whole body. There are many other physical signs and symptoms of alcoholism, however.
There are some common signs of alcoholism you might notice when you look at someone else that has a serious drinking problem, including:
You can’t see every physical symptom of alcoholism just by looking at someone, though. Some other symptoms can be detected by simple medical tests, like these:
Still other physical symptoms of alcoholism, like ulcers, nerve damage, and changes in the structure of the brain (leading to dementia and serious psychological problems) require more complicated medical tests to diagnose. A doctor can evaluate any symptoms you have and determine if further tests are needed. For example, if you have symptoms that suggest an ulcer, a doctor might recommend an endoscopy, a procedure in which a tiny camera is used to inspect the inside of your throat, stomach, and the upper portion of your small intestine.
If you notice physical signs of alcoholism in yourself or a loved you, an evaluation by a physician is in order. A diagnosis of alcoholism isn’t made on the basis of one physical symptom of alcoholism; it’s made on the basis of how alcohol affects a person, whether or not it’s causing problems in his life and whether or not he is able to stop drinking if he wants to. A doctor will, however, determine if the symptoms you’re experiencing are in fact related to alcohol use or abuse and recommend the appropriate treatment.
Treatment for physical symptoms related to alcoholism will include symptom-specific treatment; for instance, treatment for iron deficiency will include taking iron supplements and treatment for high blood pressure may include both medication and dietary changes. However, you’ll also need to stop drinking if your alcohol use has caused medical problems like these. Your doctor can probably refer you to a treatment center for alcoholics where you can get the help you need to stop drinking. If your doctor doesn’t offer a referral, ask for one.